Family Reports and the Psychology Industry in Family Law: Expert Interview

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Dr Travis Gee

Family Law Express has had the privilege to interview a Brisbane-based psychologistDr. Travis Gee, on his views of the psychology industry within the context of Family Law.

Dr. Travis Gee is an Honorary Life Member of the Australian Counselling Association, of which he is an Executive Board member.

Dr. Gee is currently in private practice.

Dr. Gee extensive and broad experience has included him teaching in universities in both Australia and his native Canada, and he has prepared independent reports in criminal cases involving so-called ‘repressed memories,’ as well as family reports and critiques in Family Law and Child Protection matters.

Dr. Gee’s university work includes research on disability and rehabilitation, chronic disease self-management and recovery from brain damage.

His personal research has largely focused on understanding the way people manage daily life, particularly divorced and separated parents.

Dr. Gee’s practice has fallen largely into these areas, where he balances a scientist-practitioner approach to counselling with the need to understand and engage each client on his or her own terms.

Family Law Express would like to thank Professor Ian R. Coyle of Bond University, Deakin University, Southern Queensland University and La Trobe University, for his editorial assistance during the drafting, proof-reading and review process on the transcript for the interview questions and responses.

expert Interview series: Dr Travis Gee

In short: Should Children Be Interviewed for Family Reports?

1. In producing a family report, the family consultant usually speaks to all significant parties involved in the case including the child/ren. How does such process likely affect the emotional well being of a child? Is it necessary for the child/ren to be included in such process? [Read the Transcript]

In short: How do Psychologists view the legal definition of family violence?

2. Family violence is defined in the Family Law Act as “violent, threatening or other behaviour by a person that coerces or controls a member of the person’s family, or causes the family member to be fearful”- how does the psychology industry view such definition? Is this a conventional explanation of family violence that must be applied in a family report, if applicable in the circumstances of the case? [Read the Transcript]

2a. Have you experienced the repercussions of this in your professional work?  [Soon to be Published]

In Short: How do Psychologists reconcile Shared Parenting & the potential Risks of Family Violence?

3. Some advocates suggest that there is a connection between a greater risk of violence and abuse, mostly to children, when 50/50 share care is supported by the Courts. How would the psychology industry address this alleged problem in the recommendations made via the family report? [Read the Transcript]

3a. Let’s assume a science-based practitioner for the moment, recognizing that this will provide the most defensible report. What practicalities would flow from adopting such an approach? [Soon to be Published]

In Short: How do Psychologists reconcile the potential risks of transient tensions and disputes typically experienced by separating couples, and genuinely entrenched conflict that can lead to seriously threatening Family Violence?

4. The 2011 amendments to the Family Law Act have created an in-built presumption that any form of historical family abuse, regardless of its nature or form, severity, duration or in some cases regardless of it even objectively occurring, is nevertheless all that is required to rebut the presumption of equal shared parental responsibility (s61DA) by the Court, and as a result can potentially cease contact between one of the parents and the child/ren.

However, the Australian Institute of Family Studies has concluded that 55% of mothers and 50% of fathers who had reported some form of historical emotionally abuse by their ex-partners presented as co-operative and friendly during interview.

However, in situations where parties had current safety concerns for the child and for themselves, there was a tendency that the alleged party will be reported as abusive or violent [Kaspiew et al., 2009].

This produces issues in assessing arrangements for child/ren in such circumstances and in producing a appropriate family report.

What are the psychological explanations behind such tendency to be acted by a parent who wants custody of his/her child? In your view how could these instances be mitigated and still put the child’s interest paramount in the family report?  [Soon to be Published]

In Short: Do Psychologists experience complications in balancing out the two primary considerations in the act of a child’s best interests and the requirement for regular contact with both parents?

5. The “best interest of a child” is a paramount consideration for the courts when making parenting orders. Such a notion has been expounded as a child’s regular contact with both parents in time of separation. [Soon to be Published]

Is there any psychological impact such explanation has on a child and possibly to the completion of a fair family report? If so, how could this be seen as a factor that hinders the bona-fide notion of a “child’s best interest?”

6. How should the “child’s best interest” defined and be applied in a family report?  [Soon to be Published]

In Short: In cases where there was no previous in-tact family, do Psychologists place the same weight on a child’s rights to meaningful contact with both parents, when such contact didn’t  exist prior to the separation?

7. In a context of a short-term relationship between the parents, how should custody of a child be assessed and how should the “best interest of a child” be defined and applied in this specific context? For a child’s well being, isn’t it necessary for a child to be able to build relationship to both his/her parents?  [Read the Transcript]

In Short: How precisely do family reports gain insights into a family dynamic given the remarkably short time available for observation and interviews?

8. As a psychologist, what are the apt methodologies of completing a family report and not obstructing the development of justice for all parties involve? [Read the Transcript]

In Short: Do you have suggestions on how to more accurately capture the reality of a family dynamic via the family report?

9. How do you think a completion of a Family Report beneficial in assessing the best interest of a child? Should this process be changed? If so, how would you change such process?  [Read the Transcript]

10. Do you think that the implementation of  your ideas would require a great deal of political support, and legislation?  [Read the Transcript]

Valerie Cortes

Online Legal Information Author at Family Law Express
Valerie is a Bachelor of Business Bachelor of Laws student at the University of Technology Sydney, majoring in International Business. Upon graduating, she plans to work in areas of family law and international human rights law, as well as an interest in international business law and commercial law. She volunteers as an interpreter for clients at a refugee case services.
Valerie Cortes
Categories: 2011 Family Violence Amendments, 2012 Family Violence Amendments, Dr Travis Gee, Expert Interviews, Family Law Act 1975, Family Report
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